The transfigured Christ is miraculously lifted above Mount Tabor between Moses (on the right) and Elijah (on the left). James, Peter and John (from left to right) react to the blinding light and powerful drama occurring above them. Raphael is often called the great assimilator of the High Renaissance style, and the work exhibits the expected characteristics of balance, proportion and symmetry. The transfiguration appears in the upper half of the large altar painting (13'4" × 9'2") while the story of the possessed boy (which follows the story of the transfiguration in Matthew 17) inhabits the earthly realm. This is the last piece of art that Raphael worked on before his death on Good Friday, April 6, 1520, at age 37. It was brought from his studio in Rome and placed above his bier during the funeral in the Pantheon. The painting was originally commissioned by Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici for the Cathedral of Narbonne, France. He established a competition between Raphael and Sebastiano del Piombo, a Venetian artist, and Raphael may have included the rendering of the possessed boy to outdo Sebastiano.
My father-in-law said that when he began ministry six decades ago, pastors were expected to visit the sick, preach and do a little teaching in the congregation. Now it takes me an entire semester just to skim the surface of “must-have competences” in an Ordained Leadership class. And the list is growing.
Oh Peter, how I love thee. You make my craziness seem normal, thank you.
In the midst of the most amazing thing he had seen to this point, the
Transfiguration, Peter stops being present to the glory just long
enough to say, “Master, it good for us to be here. Let’s build three
dwellings: one for Elijah, one for Moses, and one for you.”
In my childhood one of the lessons I had to learn the hard way—and repeatedly—is that coming down is almost always more difficult than going up. Whether I was scaling a tall tree, climbing rocks or racing to the top of a ladder, the descent seemed both harder and more nerve-wracking than the ascent.